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Critters » Macaws


Physical Appearance:

Widely distributed throughout Central and South America, 17 different species of macaws exist: Blue and Gold, Scarlet, Green-winged, Hyacinth, Noble... to name a few. Inhabiting such diverse terrain as rainforests and rocky deserts, they have a large beak, relatively long and slender body shape with a long tail. The feature which distinguishes them most from other species with a similar appearance, such as the conure (an American parrakeet of the genus Conurus), is the presence of bare facial skin. In most macaws, this exposed area has several rows of tiny feathers that extend up in front of and below the eye. Macaws vary in size from type to type. The largest of all parrots, the Hyacinth Macaw , weighs an average of 1400 grams, and is 38 inches long. The Noble Macaw, which is no larger than a Conure, weighs 165 grams and measures only 13 inches in length.


Macaws are highly social birds that live in either pairs or extended groups. As with many social bird species, they tend to congregate in large numbers to roost at night. During the day they break up into smaller groups, or pairs, to search for food. The bond between a male and female is very strong and, when part of a larger flock, the two are always together. For the most part, macaws are dedicated partners -- remaining loyal and monogamous. As a pair, two macaws aid and comfort one another in many ways. For example, when they reach sexual maturity the males start to feed their mates. Macaws mate for life. They are, for the most part, generous and loving birds to one another.


The larger macaws take five years to reach sexual maturity. They nest in isolated, small tree cavities a hundred feet or more off the ground. Usually mating in December, the female lays two eggs. She incubates them for four weeks, at which point the egg is ready to hatch. After birth, a Macaw is ready to leave its nest at three to four months. However, fledglings are reported to stay with their parents for up to a year, and learn the habits necessary for survival in the wild. Given this time frame, breeding may not occur every year. Reproduction rates are also reported to be affected by a lack of suitable nesting sites in either hollowed out palms or other trees. Past field studies of these birds have indicated that for every 100 pairs of macaws only 10 to 12 offspring were produced in a year. In spite of this weak reproductive cycle, these birds maintained a relatively stable population until man moved into their habitat.


Nine different species of Macaws have already become extinct. These birds, including the Cuban macaw which vanished in 1885, were all residents of the Caribbean islands. It appears as though human carelessness and expansion led to their vanishing. Overall, mankind has affected them through the devastation of their habitat, including the deforestation of the Amazon rain forest. Humans also capture and trade adult macaw birds and nestlings to sell in the pet market. The impact of this is staggering, considering that in a duration of 10 years before laws against this trade existed, 30% of the total wild population of some species was collected for sale. Since laws have been enacted, most notably the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) act of 1992, the capture of wild birds has been substantially reduced... but not eliminated. Moreover, the trapping of birds to acquire their feathers, which are used in native ceremonies in Central and North America, has also diminished population levels of these unique, exotic birds.

Sources: some information and facts found at "", and "".

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